TV column for Thursday, May 22



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Last Comic Standing” season-opener, 9-11
p.m., NBC.

The idea – a competition for stand-up comedians – offers
great summer fun, filled with sharp one-liners. But over the past 11 years, NBC
has behaved like a bad boyfriend, alternately loving and leaving it.


Once, it liked the show so much that it added an instant
fall edition … then failed to air the final episode. NBC skipped two summers
(2005 and 2009), then abandoned “Last” entirely after the summer of 2010. Four
years later, it brings it back with a new host (J.B. Smoove), strong judges (Roseanne
Barr, Keenan Ivory Wayans and Russell Peters) and a fresh concept, skipping
open auditions and inviting 100 pros.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Gang Related” debut, 9 p.m., Fox.


At times, this has the qualities of cable-style dramas, good
(deeply conflicted characters) and bad (obsession with torture). At other
times, it’s an old-fashioned cop show, with an overwrought car chase plus unlikely
foot chases. (Why do TV cops rush cram the front door, stationing no one in the
back?)


It’s an odd hybrid, but viewers will get involved with an
otherwise-honest cop who has a secret loyalty to the crime boss who’s been his friend
since boyhood. An attractive young cast is anchored by skilled pros -- Terry
O’Quinn and Cliff Curtis – as the leaders of the cops and crooks respectively.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Labyrinth,” 8-10 p.m., CW; concludes
Friday.


Helping out at an archeological dig, Alice (Vanessa Kirby)
senses what she later calls “800-year déjà vu.” Does she really have a link to
Alais (Jessica Brown Findlay), from the 13
th century? Who is the old
man (John Hurt) who seems to bridge the two? And why are dangerous people after
Alice?


Based on a best-seller, “Labyrinth” requires coincidences
and supernatural twists, plus moments of brutality. Still, it’s a Ridley Scott
production, richly capturing both eras. Findlay, formerly Lady Sybil on
“Downton Abbey,” is especially good in (after “Winter’s Tale”) her second
time-span story this year.


Other choices tonight include:


“The Bachelorette,” 8-9:30 p.m., ABC. Here’s a quick rerun
of Monday’s opener.


“Hollywood Game Night,” 8-9 p.m., NBC. There are still some
new hours left, to spark the summer start of “Last Comic Standing” and (next
Thursday) a new comedy. Tonight has three “Hot in Cleveland” stars (Valerie
Bertinelli, Wendi Malik and Jane Leeves), plus Mekhi Phifer, Billy Eichner and
Andy Richter.


“The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. Who needs new shows,
when you have TV’s best comedy? This rerun has everyone going to Howard’s
mother’s house for Thanksgiving, despite Sheldon’s objections.


“The Millers,” 8:31 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, Nathan tells his
mom make someone else her chauffeur.


“Two and a Half Men,” 9:01 p.m., CBS. Walden is determined
to show he’s a man’s man. Also in this rerun, Alan learns what Lyndsey never
told him: She and Larry have broken up.


“Modern Family,” 9:30 p.m., ABC. In a rerun, Phil and Claire
have conflicting surprises at the school fair.


“Elementary,” 10:01 p.m., CBS. This rerun probes a
home-invasion case in Captain Gregson’s home. His wife is played by Talia
Balsam, who is best-known as an ex-wife – to George Clooney in real life and to
Roger Sterling (played by her real-life husband John Slattery) on “Mad Men.”


TV column for Wednesday, May 21



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “American Idol” finale, 8-10:06 p.m.,
Fox.


On the final night of the official TV season, Caleb Johnson
or Jena Irene will become the 13
th “Idol” champion. This year’s top
10 will perform, including third-place Alex Preston, singing with Jason Mraz.


Mraz is in swarm of guest singers. Some are country
(Jennifer Nettles, Lady Antebellum), many are rock or pop (Demi Lovato, Kiss,
John Legend, Phillip Phillips, Paramore, Aloe Blacc); Darius Rucker is both.


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE (second option): “Survivor” finale, 8
p.m., CBS, with reunion at 10.


For the first time, the two reality-competition giants let
their finales collide. After years of Sunday finales, “Survivor” goes
eye-to-eye with “Idol.”


Surviving are two people from the “brains” tribe, two from
“brawn” and (reassuringly) none from “beauty.” The brawny ones are Tony
Vlachos, 39, a cop, and Yung “Woo” Hwang, 29, a martial arts instructor; the
others are Kass McQuillen, 41, a lawyer, and Spencer Bledsoe, 21, a student.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Modern Family” season finale and
“Mixology” finale, 9 and 9:31 p.m., ABC.


Here’s another big-draw event: Cam and Mitchell, the most
popular characters in one of TV’s best comedies, are getting married. We can
expect many complications and many guest stars – including Nathan Lane,
Elizabeth Banks, Adam DeVine and Barry Corbin.


Most people abandon ABC after “Modern Family,” which is
unfortunate. Despite occasional flaws – most centering on the Bruce character –
“Mixology” is an interesting comedy experiment, with a whole season packed into
one matchmaking night. Tonight’s finale mixes things up, with occasional
surprises.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-RECORD: “Motive” season-opener, 10 p.m.,
ABC.


Often, ABC spices a reality-strewn summer with some Canadian
dramas – “Rookie Blue,” “Combat Hospital” and (beginning last year) this show.
Some are hits; all (being Canadian) reflect subtle skill.


“Motive” starts by telling us who is the killer and who is
the victim; we stay to learn why it happened and how the police will find out.
This opener finds a faked suicide; the victim was trying to find a woman who
was widowed years ago. It’s a complex tale that ties together neatly.


Other choices include:


“The Middle” season-finale, 8-9 p.m., ABC. Last week, Sue –
who rarely succeeds at anything – won her family a Disney World vacation. Now we
see it, filled with complications – the long drive from Indiana, Brick pushing
for a detour to meet his Online girlfriend, Axl fretting about his
college-freshman grades.


 “Revolution,” 8 p.m.,
NBC. Let’s assume this is the series finale, since NBC isn’t bringing it back
next fall. Tonight, Miles, Monroe and Charlie plan to attack the Patriots, then
must scramble to avert a larger war.


“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” season-finale, 9
p.m., NBC. Last week, Detective Amaro gave a brutal beating. Now he faces the
consequences and a new case involves someone connected to Benson.


“The 100,” 9 p.m., CW. In last week’s episode (rerunning at
8), Clarke and Finn – the most sensible of these young settlers on a ravaged
Earth -- tried to broker a peace with the locals, called Grounders. Tonight, Murphy
returns, claiming the Grounders tortured him. Also, a virus spreads through the
camp.


“Chicago P.D.,” 10:01 p.m., NBC. Lindsay finally confides her
crisis to Voight, her boss and father figure.


TV column for Tuesday, May 20



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “American Idol,” 8 p.m., Fox.


Two powerhouse voices collide one last time, before viewers
choose the new champion.


Last week, Caleb Johnson, 23, overcame a throat ailment to
blast epic rock that had two of the judges up and dancing. Jena Irene, 17,
countered with passionate ballads. It was a strong night that left Alex Preston
behind; on Wednesday’s finale, the show will have its 13
th champion.


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “The Voice” and “Dancing With the
Stars” finales, 9-11 p.m.


As soon as “Idol” finishes its season’s second-to-last
episode, two other shows start their last ones. Each has a preview hour at 8,
with lots of clips, then gets down to the real thing.


For “Voice,” the final three are Jake Worthington (coached by
Blake Shelton), Christina Grimme (Adam Levine) and Josh Kaufman (Usher). “Stars”
started the week with actors James Maslow and Candace Cameron Bure, Paralympic
snowboarder Amy Purdy and Olympic ice-dance champion Meryl Davis.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “All-Star Salute to the Troops,” 9-11
p.m., CBS.


It’s a night of music overload … and Blake/Keith overload. Keith
Urban judges on “Idol” and sings here. Blake Shelton coaches (and maybe sings)
on “Voice” and duets here with his wife, Miranda Lambert.


There’s more from Nashville’s best, old (Merle Haggard,
George Strait) and young (Hunter Hayes). Other performers are Carrie Underwood,
Tim McGraw, Toby Keith, Luke Bryan, Dierks Bentley, Lee Brice, Lady Antebellum,
Rascal Flatts, The Band Perry, the Eli Young Band and Florida Georgia Line.


Other choices include:


“Apocalypse Now” (1979), 6:45 p.m., Sundance (repeating at
10); “The Elephant Man” (1980), 8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. Here are true
classics, each nominated for eight Oscars, including best picture.


“Judge Judy Primetime,” 8 p.m., CBS. Back in 1993, “60
Minutes” had a piece about Judy Sheindlin, an acerbic judge; three years later,
she started a show that eventually topped even Oprah Winfrey in the ratings.
This hour includes part of the “60 Minutes: piece, plus clips and some new
cases.


“Coming Back,” 8 p.m., PBS (check local listings). The tough
part can be simply fitting into a different world at home, combat veteran Wes
Moore says in this strong hour. He meets one man who moved into a tough
Baltimore neighborhood and another who turned his injuries into a stand-up
comedy act. He continues stories about one married vet still in transition and
another pondering civilian work overseas.


“Supernatural” season-finale,” 9 p.m., CW. Last week’s
episode (rerunning at 8) left Dean with the effects of using the First Blade.
Now he must help stop Metatron’s fight against humanity.


“Frontline,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). The
relationship, voluntary or not, between private businesses and the National
Security Agency is studied in this jolting hour. One year, the NSA sent 56,000
demands for cyber-information; only one small company resisted and it won in
court. Others scan customers’ E-mails to fashion advertising … possibly with
the NSA piggybacking onto their use.


“Fargo,” 10-11:17 p.m., FX. What started as a buoyant
mixture of comedy and dark drama has grown increasingly dark. This episode
takes some fierce turns during snowstorm shoot-outs. It’s part of Lorne Malvo’s
inexplicably large plan for a distraction, while he blackmails a corrupt
supermarket mogul.


TV column for Monday, May 19



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Voice” and “Dancing With the
Stars,” 8 p.m., NBC and ABC.

Tonight, viewers get one more chance to vote; on Tuesday,
both shows will have new champions.


In five seasons of “Voice” -- where careers are at stake -- every
winner has been coached by Blake Shelton (three) or Adam Levine (two). Tonight,
Shelton has Jake Worthington and Levine has Christina Grimme; the interloper is
Usher, with Josh Kaufman.


For “Stars” – with little at stake – the final-four contestants
are ice-dance champion Meryl Davis and Paralympic snowboarder Amy Purdy, plus
actors James Maslow and Candace Cameron Bure.


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Warehouse 13” finale, 9 p.m., Syfy; rerunning
at 11 p.m. and 1 a.m.


A rare blend of whimsy, warmth and save-the-world fantasy,
“13” has given us seven splendid seasons. It takes a goofy premise – a
warehouse for artifacts of history and myth – and adds quirky characters.


Now the show departs, with each offering a “memory” -- Claudia
tap-dancing, Myka karate-kicking, Artie raging. These are fun, but there are
important things to be decided: Will the warehouse really move? Will Claudia
take over? Will Pete and Myka admit they’re in love? Stick around.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Bones” season-finale, 8 p.m., Fox.


Tossing aside its quiet style, this hour starts big (a
flash-forward emergency-room scene) and ends bigger, when a gun battle has
enough blasts to fill a summer-movie weekend.


Unfortunately, that’s not really the end; viewers will be
held in limbo for four months, until next fall. And the final minutes are
wildly unbelievable – Brennan is out of character, there’s no back-up plan and
fierce gunfire seems to go unnoticed in suburbia. It’s a fairly good episode,
despite all those late flaws.


Other choices include:


“2 Broke Girls,” 8 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, Caroline buys Max a
pillowcase … then must find the old one.


“Mike & Molly,” 9 p.m., CBS. Already overwhelmed by
taking care of his mother, Mike isn’t happy about Molly landing an invitation
to a two-month writers’ workshop in Iowa.


“24,” 9 p.m., Fox. As Jack scrambles to elude killers and
warn the President in the embassy, Margot shows that she’s willing to wield
fierce destruction.


“The Bachelorette” opener, 9:30-11 p.m., ABC. Maybe the real
mystery isn’t why Andi Dorfman quit “The Bachelor,” but why she didn’t do it
sooner. Juan Pablo Galavis, a former soccer prop, seemed like a mismatch for
Dorfman, an assistant district attorney focusing on gang-busting; still, she
stuck around to the final three, including the overnight stay. Then she quit;
now she gets a chance to find a closer match.


“Independent Lens,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). The
young Americans we meet at the start of this documentary are optimistic,
idealistic and likable, ready for missionary work. There’s a catch, this
chilling film says: The anti-gay views of their International House of Prayer
spark fierce bias in Uganda; a new law includes life-sentences for gays and
imprisonment for anyone who helps them.


“The Maya Rudolph Show,” 10:01 p.m., NBC. It’s been a long
time since primetime TV tried a variety series, with music and comedy; here’s a
pilot by someone from both worlds. Rudolph sings (her mother was gifted singer
Minnie Ripperton) and did comedy on “Saturday Night Live.” Several “SNL” alumni
– Andy Samberg, Fred Armisen, Chris Parnell – visit, with Janelle Monae as
music guest.


TV column for Sunday, May 18



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Billboard Music Awards,” 8-11 p.m.,
ABC.

 

The awards merely honor whoever sold the most music in the
past year. Up for “top artist” are Miley Cyrus, Justin Timberlake, Bruno Mars,
Katy Perry and Imagine Dragons; nominated for the “milestone award” are Carrie
Underwood, Ellie Goulding and OneRepublic.


The real draw for the night (hosted by Ludacris) are performances.
They include Cyrus, Underwood (in a duet with Miranda Lambert), OneRepublic and
Imagine Dragons. Jennifer Lopez sings and get an Icon Award; there’s music from
Ricky Martin, Lorde, Luke Bryan, Ariana Grande, Pitbull, Iggy Azelea, Florida
Georgia Line, 5 Seconds of Summer and what’s called “the Michael Jackson
experience.”


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “The Amazing Race” finale, 8 p.m.,
CBS.


Rachel Reilly has lived in our TV sets lately. In the 2010
“Big Brother” she romanced Brendon Villegas (now a physics doctoral student)
and finished ninth; the next year, they returned and she won. Then they
finished third on “Amazing Race” … now they’re back, married, and in the Las
Vegas finish.


They face Dennis and Connor O’Leary, who are father-and-son
cancer survivors, and Jennifer Wayne and Caroline Cutbirth. Once in the
country-music trio Stealing Angels, the women – granddaughter of John Wayne,
descendant of Daniel Boone – are now, respectively, a songwriter and a music promoter.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Call the Midwife” and “Masterpiece
Classic” season-finales, 8 and 9-11 p.m., PBS (check local listings).


Towering (6-foot-1), clumsy and big-hearted, Chummy has been
a delight on “Midwife.” We’ve seen her marriage to a cop and her relationship
with a wealthy and disapproving mother. Last week, the mom arrived, separated
from her husband and penniless; now Chummy (Miranda Hart) takes care of her.


Then “Mr. Selfridge” follows Harry Selfridge (Jeremy Piven),
the cocky American who owns a London department store. He’s desperate to clear
his name and show that the evil Lord Loxey is actually the World War I profiteer.
Also, Henri may go to war; Agnes may quit the store to focus on the restaurant.


Other choices include:


“Coldplay: Ghost Stories,” 7 p.m., NBC. Before switching to
ABC for the Billboard awards, music fans can catch this special, which mixes
concert footage and other film.


“The Simpsons” season-finale, 8 p.m., Fox. Bart betrays a
friend to win a school race.


“Cosmos,” 9 p.m., Fox. This hour asks the big questions: Why
do civilizations perish? And are there beings somewhere who live forever?


“The Women of SNL,” 9-11 p.m., NBC. In a late change, NBC is
pulling “Believe” and “Crisis” (each for the second straight week), replacing
them with this rerun of a “Saturday Night Live” compilation.


“The Good Wife” season-finale, 9 p.m., CBS. As soon as Louis
Canning (Michael J. Fox) joined Diane’s law firm, he began scheming to take it
over. That continues tonight, while Alicia hears a threat to her firm.


“Game of Thrones,” 9 p.m., HBO. Tyrion finds an ally; Jon
finds his warnings about The Wall are ignored.


“The Mentalist” season-finale, 10 p.m., CBS. Here’s the last
new episode for a show that will be back next season, but isn’t on the fall
schedule. When an old case re-opens, Lisbon delays her move.